Educators say students more than ever will need to continue their education past high school to have successful careers.
But as the cost of college continues to vastly outpace inflation, paying for a post-secondary education is becoming more difficult, if not impossible, for many families with a low or modest incomes.
The Kauffman Foundation hopes to ease that problem for 1,500 families in the Kansas City area with a $79 million investment over 10 years in a program it's calling KC Scholars.
“KC Scholars is a true community collaboration, driven by the belief that all students – regardless of income, age or ethnicity – deserve an opportunity to earn a college education,” Wendy Guillies, president of the Kauffman Foundation, said in a statement.
The program takes a three-pronged approach. It will award a $10,000 scholarship to 250 high school juniors for up to five years of college. Another 200 scholarships will be given to students 24 and older who have earned at least 12 hours of college credit. Those awards are $5,000 and also available for up to five years.
“To help those who are so inclined to go back and get a degree, perhaps get a better job or get into a different kind of career path. We really think that’s going to help move the needle economically in our community,” Guillies said in a phone interview.
The foundation will also provide modest amounts to match college savings accounts for up to 1,000 students in the area on both sides of the state line.
The scholarships can be used at two- and four-year schools.
“By 2020, two out of three jobs will require more than a high school diploma. In Kansas City, we know there are not enough high school graduates entering college and completing their higher degree,” Michael Roane, senior vice president for JE Dunn Construction and co-chair of the KC Scholars Implementation Committee, said in announcing the program.
Guillies said she hopes other companies and foundations will join in the program.
“We hope many, many others can contribute to this so it can become one of the biggest scholarship programs in the country,” she said.
Guillies said KC Scholars will replace the foundation's Kauffamn Scholars program in 2022. The program accepted its eighth and final class in 2011.